Light is a key stimulus for plant biological functions, several of which are controlled by light-activated kinases known as phototropins, a group of kinases that contain two light-sensing domains (LOV, light-oxygen-voltage domains) and a C-terminal serine/threonine kinase domain. The second sensory domain, LOV2, plays a key role in regulating kinase enzymatic activity via the photochemical formation of a covalent adduct between a LOV2 cysteine residue and an internally bound flavin mononucleotide (FMN) chromophore. Subsequent conformational changes in LOV2 lead to the unfolding of a peripheral Jα helix and, ultimately, phototropin kinase activation. To date, the mechanism coupling bond formation and helix dissociation has remained unclear. Previous studies found that a conserved glutamine residue [Q513 in the Avena sativa phototropin 1 LOV2 (AsLOV2) domain] switches its hydrogen bonding pattern with FMN upon light stimulation. Located in the immediate vicinity of the FMN binding site, this Gln residue is provided by the Iß strand that interacts with the Jα helix, suggesting a route for signal propagation from the core of the LOV domain to its peripheral Jα helix. To test whether Q513 plays a key role in tuning the photochemical and transduction properties of AsLOV2, we designed two point mutations, Q513L and Q513N, and monitored the effects on the chromophore and protein using a combination of UV-visible absorbance and circular dichroism spectroscopy, limited proteolysis, and solution NMR. The results show that these mutations significantly dampen the changes between the dark and lit state AsLOV2 structures, leaving the protein in a pseudodark state (Q513L) or a pseudolit state (Q513N). Further, both mutations changed the photochemical properties of this receptor, in particular the lifetime of the photoexcited signaling states. Together, these data establish that this residue plays a central role in both spectral tuning and signal propagation from the core of the LOV domain through the Iß strand to the peripheral Jα helix.
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